Two journalists in Panama sentenced for defamation, banned from working for a year

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  • October 6, 2010

By Ingrid Bachmann

A federal appeals court has overturned the acquittal of Sabrina Bacal and Justino González in separate suits for libel and injury. They were both sentenced to 12 months in prison and banned from practicing journalism for a year Hora Cero reports.

Bacal, news editor of Channel 2, and González, a former reporter for that station who is now a commentator for KW Continente radio, were convicted in a lawsuit after reporting in 2005 about a human trafficking network operating in the immigration department, La Prensa explains.

Journalists describe the sentence as “aberrant” and an attack on freedom of expression which occurs at a time when Panama is debating a possible criminalization of crimes against honor. The sentences can be commutted in exchange for a fine of about US$3,600, but the ban on practicing journalism has caused surprise, because it is not part of the sanctions contained in the Penal Code.

According to Panamá América, President Ricardo Martinelli has avoided commenting on the decision, calling it a matter for the courts.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.